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We support and encourage academic units, programs, faculty, and students to enhance their international activities with our programs, events, and academic exchanges.

The government’s rules and regulations change frequently, and immigration and hiring processes can be highly complex.

Please contact the Office of International Programs’ Global Services visa and immigration advisors at 509-335-4508 or email  ip.intlservices@wsu.edu as soon as possible.

We will set up a case in our Immigration Tracker web portal, which you and your international candidates can use to submit and review documents, set up automatic notifications, and keep tabs on what is happening at each stage of the process.

Teaching and Research Assistantships in the Time of COVID-19

Teaching/Research Assistantships for International Graduate Students Abroad:
Information and WSU Contacts

 

Due to COVID-19, most international graduate students who returned home in the spring and summer or traveled outside the U.S. have not been able to re-enter the country for fall semester and new students are challenged to get to the U.S. Many international graduate students with a teaching or research assistantship (TA/RA) appointment want to continue their appointments for fall 2020 and beyond by working remotely from their home country or country of residence. New students may wish to start their TA/RA. This creates a series of issues relating to employment and taxation law and WSU’s respective obligations in these areas.

Here are answers to frequently asked questions on this topic as well as contact information should you need additional information:

Q. What are the immigration consequences of working as a TA/RA from outside the U.S.?

A. For international graduate students in F or J visa status, employment restrictions apply only when they are physically inside the U.S. If an individual is outside the U.S., there is no need to consider their immigration status unless/until they return to the U.S.

However, their immigration documents may have been created with an assistantship in mind. If an assistantship is removed or modified, the student must get their immigration documents updated and have an updated finance letter when applying for a new visa at the local U.S. embassy or consulate. If you have questions about documentation for students’ visa application interviews, please contact the Office of International Programs (IP)-International Student and Scholar Services at intlservices@wsu.edu.

Q. What are the financial and academic considerations of this situation?

A. For many new and returning international graduate students, the TA/RA is the only way they can afford to study in the U.S. Support from the assistantship is their means of obtaining a visa and starting or continuing their studies.

For students unable to enter the U.S., the loss or delay of an assistantship could prevent them from staying enrolled for that semester. At that point, a student has 3 options:

      1. Work with the department on facilitating a leave of absence for that semester;
      2. Enroll below their original full-time status and pay out of pocket if the department is unable to make other arrangements; and
      3. Withdraw.

If not opting to withdraw, the student will need to have their initial immigration status start delayed a semester or have their immigration status ended and ask for new, updated immigration documents for a future semester when they can return.

We recognize that funding for an assistantship could come from a variety of sources and there may not be a way to push, defer, or extend an assistantship. In this case, students who cannot arrive at WSU on time due to pandemic-related delays will lose the assistantship. If issues related to COVID-19 continue, we could see long-term consequences for student recruitment or retention. So, as preparation for future semesters commences, departments need to consider what flexibility they have regarding assistantships and funding.

We at IP-International Student and Scholar Services are happy to discuss delays in visa issuance and help give departments more information to make better-informed decisions. Please contact ip.intlservices@wsu.edu.

Q. What does this mean for tax compliance?

A. WSU is responsible for withholding and remitting employee and employer tax within the host country when employees work outside of the U.S. Specific to international graduate students on assistantships, to maintain tax compliance Payroll Services needs to run a tax analysis to determine the university’s tax exposure including statutory obligations. If a department is interested in continuing employment or starting employment for an international graduate student overseas, WSU will hire a third party to review each student’s case and WSU’s liability. This evaluation can cost several thousand dollars per case, paid by the department. In addition, there might be ongoing costs associated with the remittance of taxes, also paid for by the department.

Tax implications for tuition waivers must also be considered. In some countries these tuition waivers are taxable, meaning a student may also have their own tax obligation for the amount of the tuition waiver. Their tax liability can be in the 30%-40% range.

Payroll has the expertise to advise on this. Prior to offering employment to individuals outside of the country, contact Payroll Services at 509-335-9575 or payroll@wsu.edu.

Q. What does this mean in terms of employee registration or verification?

A. Generally, all employees including international graduate students on assistantships are required to present original documents that establish identity and employment authorization within 3 business days of hire. For continuing students who were already employed, their I-9 should have already been completed and would be valid. For those employees who are hired and working remotely out of county, the completed I-9 is not required until they arrive in the United States. If a department is paying an international graduate student on assistantship via their pre-departure method and that student is overseas, it could be in violation of the tax code and places WSU out of compliance. If an individual employee or a department is aware that a student is overseas, but fails to inform WSU of this change, WSU is considered as a whole to be out of compliance. For guidance, contact WSU HRS at 509-335-4521or hrs@wsu.edu.

Q. What impact does employment law have on this situation?

A. Employment law varies by country and hiring an international graduate student to work outside of the U.S. may require use of an Employer of Record within the country. If so, this involves ongoing additional cost to the hiring department. If you are considering employment outside of the U.S., please contact your HRS service team to discuss specific details. Also, contact Payroll Services to initiate a tax analysis at payroll@wsu.edu.

Q. What do I need to do if an international graduate student with an assistantship defers for a term or two?

A. An international graduate student must enroll and complete the first semester of study to which they were admitted to be considered a graduate student in active status. If the first semester of study is not completed for any reason (e.g., unable to enroll or attend because of visa issues, inability to use assistantship support), the student can defer (or update) their CollegeNet application up to 2 times to be reconsidered for admission by the department as well as any financial support that the department may be able to offer. However, admission is not guaranteed. Since there is a strict limit to the number of times that a student’s application can be updated, it is important that the student and department consider carefully whether the student will be able to attend WSU in the semester for which the application has been updated.

To request an update of their application, graduate students should contact their academic department no later than 30 calendar days into the semester for which they applied. The department can relay this information to the Graduate School. For additional guidance, please contact the Graduate School at gradschool@wsu.edu.

Visa Categories

Foreign nationals coming to the United States to study, visit, or work will need to apply for 1 of these visa types.

International Students

  • F-1 academic program student
  • J-1 exchange student

International Scholars

  • B-1 business visitor
  • WB visitor
  • J-1 scholar

International Workers/Employees

  • H-1B specialty worker
  • TN professional worker (Canadian/Mexican citizens only)
  • E-3 specialty worker (Australian citizens only)
  • H-1B1 specialty worker (Chilean/Singaporean citizens only)

Only the U.S. Embassy/Consulate can issue a visa. It is strongly recommended a foreign national apply for a U.S. visa in his/her home country. A U.S. Embassy/Consulate may or may not accept a third-country national (TCN) visa application and it usually takes longer to process.

Exchange Visitor Categories

There are 4 principal categories within Exchange Visitor Program in which WSU sponsors foreign faculty to come to WSU to engage in collaborative projects.

An exchange visitor cannot be a candidate for a tenure track position or permanent employment.

Professors

A professor may primarily conduct teaching, lecturing, observing, or consulting at post-secondary accredited educational institutions and may also conduct research, unless disallowed by the sponsor. Please note that it is appropriate for a professor or research scholar to come to the United States as an exchange visitor only when the underlying purpose of his or her entry is to stimulate international collaborative teaching and research efforts or to promote interchange between research and educational institutions in the United States and other countries.

Scholars

A research scholar may primarily conduct research, observe, or consult in connection with a research project at post-secondary accredited educational institutions. A scholar may also teach or lecture, unless disallowed by the sponsor.

Short-Term Scholar

A professor, research scholar, or person with similar education or accomplishments coming to the United States on a short-term visit for the purpose of lecturing, observing, consulting, training, or demonstrating special skills at post-secondary accredited educational institutions may stay from 1 day to a maximum of 6 months. No extensions beyond the 6 months are permitted.

Specialist

This is an individual who is an expert in a field of specialized knowledge or skill coming to the United States for observing, consulting, or demonstrating special skills. J-1 visa holders in the Specialist category may stay for the length of time necessary to complete their program, not to exceed 1 year. Extensions beyond the 1-year program are not permitted.

Not Sure which Visa Your Visitor Will Need?

Try the visa wizard on the State Department’s visa website. Answering a few basic questions about your international candidate should lead you right to the visa information you need.

Visa Resources

U.S. Department of State visa information

State Department visa page

You may find these parts of the State Department site particularly helpful:

U.S. government agencies

U.S. immigration resources

Housing & Transportation

For those flying into Spokane International Airport (GEG), there is a daily airport shuttle service from there to the WSU Pullman campus, available by reservation through Wheatland Express Airport Shuttle for a charge of about $45.

International Programs does not provide direct housing services. Scholars and/or their host departments arrange for housing.

Living on campus

The University welcomes international scholars in its on-campus housing. A variety of apartment living options are available to accommodate both single students and families.

Explore campus housing

Living off campus

For assistance in locating other off-campus housing options, contact your WSU host department or see this apartment sources website.

Explore the Pullman area